Category: Q&A

The C-Mon Q&A: Photographer and activist Dona Ann McAdams.


Cheerleader by Dona Ann McAdams. (Image courtesy of Opalka Gallery.)

Last year when we spent the year slacking around Rome, we were fortunate to spend many of those hours wandering the streets with photographer and activitst Dona Ann McAdams — the artist best known for Caught in the Act, a book of photographs chronicling the work of performance artists such as Karen Finley, Eric Bogosian, Blue Man Group, Meredith Monk, Ethyl Eichelberger, Ann Magnuson, Bill T. Jones, and Allen Ginsburg, among others. McAdams, a street photographer in the tradition of Henri Cartier Bresson, was a pretty funny companion, riffing on everything she saw. But what we didn’t always notice is that even while she gabbed, she was skillfully zeroing in on her surroundings without breaking pace or even stopping the conversation, snapping away with a three-decade old Leica. “Ninety percent of what I shoot is crap,” McAdams once remarked when we happened to see the hundreds of rolls of black and white film in her refrigerator. Despite what she may say, her filter nonetheless manages to catch startlingly beautiful, humorous, unguarded moments that are intended as much to be chronicles of McAdams interest in social activism as pure beauty.

The work is now the subject of a Some Women, a comprehensive mid-career survey (a sampling, McAdams calls it) at the Opalka Gallery in Albany. The show centers on McAdams longstanding interest in women as subject matter and it’s is well worth the drive, especially this coming Wednesday, December 9, when Paul H-O’s film Guest of Cindy Sherman in which McAdams appears, will be shown in conjunction with the show’s final week. To promote the exhibit and the film, McAdams has agreed to submit to our interrogation.

San Suzie: What’s the biggest stereotype about photography?
Dona Ann McAdams:
That it can illustrate an objective truth, and bear witness to an event. You can’t look at a photograph and know what’s going on. It’s just one person’s point of view.

If you could change one thing about the art world what would it be?
The way it’s looked at. Art should be in grocery stores. I’d like an exhibit at Sam’s Club.

What artist, living or dead, would you most like to party with?
I’d like to be at a jazz club in Harlem with Roy DeCarava and Tina Modotti. We’d be listening to Miles.

If you could have any work of art to hang in your bathroom, what would it be?
An original panel of Windsor McCay’s Little Nemo in Slumberland.

What two artists would you like to watch duke it out in a celebrity death match?
How about Caravaggio and William Burroughs dueling with pistols? But I’d rather see Walter Benjamin and Susan Sontag play chess.

If an alien from another galaxy landed on Earth and wanted to take back a single work of art to represent all of humanity, what would you give them?
Duchamp’s ready-made urinal. It says it all.

What imagery do you think is overused in art?
The self-portrait.

If you were to die and come back as a piece of art, what would it be?
I’d be Louise Bourgeois’ giant spider Maman and live in the Cortile at the Capodimonte Museum in Naples.

If you could vandalize any work of art, what would it be?
It would have to be Damien Hirst. But then he’d get even more press he doesn’t need. If you’re not going to eat the animals, put them in the ground or leave them in the ocean.

If art could kill, how would you like to die?
Listening to Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis. That kills me every time.

The C-Mon Q&A: Fred Kaplan, author of ’1959.’


1959, by Fred Kaplan.

There are years so transformative, they stand out on name alone: 1492. 1776. 1968. On the surface, 1959 would not appear to be one of them. But 1959: The Year Everything Changed, by Slate regular Fred Kaplan, begs to differ. This was the year, after all, that Miles Davis recorded Kind of Blue, ditching the rigidity of bebop for a freer style of improvisation. It was when Fidel Castro and a gang of barbudos took over the island of Cuba. And it was when a tinkerer-engineer named John St. Clair Kilby introduced the microchip, a thumbnail-sized piece of technology that would revolutionize the world of computing (and allow for the eventual dissemination of LOL cats to the universe). Not to mention all of the era’s other significant cultural happenings: the Guggenheim Museum opened its doors to the public, Robert Frank’s book The Americans arrived in the United States and MoMA unveiled an exhibit titled Sixteen Americans, a show that helped give rise to artists such as Robert Rauschenberg, Allan Kaprow and Jasper Johns.

“I’ve generally been suspicious of books like this — Cod: The Fish That Changed the World — the idea that everything is affected by one event,” says Kaplan of his broad survey. “But so many of the things that we associate with the late ’60s and the Baby Boomers, they were rooted in the late ’50s — and instigated by a generation that came of age during war and became disgruntled at the phony period that followed.”

1959 is definitely one hell of a yearbook (and one hell of a dishy read), featuring appearances by Norman Mailer, John F. Kennedy, Lenny Bruce, Herman Kahn, William Burroughs, John Cassavetes and Margaret Sanger. (Interesting fact: old Mags got around.) The book captures the era’s high creativity, as well as the high anxiety generated by the Cold War. “[Mort] Sahl put it this way,” writes Kaplan, of the period. “Whenever he saw an airplane approaching, he never knew whether it was going to drop a hydrogen bomb or spell out ‘Pepsi-Cola’ in skywriting.”

With the Gugg celebrating it’s 50th, Frank’s photos on display at the Met and Kaprow’s tires being rethought by William Pope L. at Hauser & Wirth, we figured that there was no time like the present to talk to Kaplan, a veteran jazz writer, who was kind enough to submit to our questioning. Here, he reveals his distaste for art skulls, the type of Picasso he’d like to hang in the loo and why he’d like to dump pig blood all over Robert Indiana’s Love sign.

C-M: If you were to die and come back as a piece of art, what would it be?
KAPLAN: Calvin Tomkins, in his biography of Robert Rauschenberg, wrote that when he went to the Sixteen Americans show, he saw a piece by the artist called Double Feature. It had a man’s shirt with a pocket, so [Tomkins] mischievously dropped a quarter into the pocket. I want to come back as that — so that people can mischieveously drop quarters into my shirt pocket.

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The C-Mon Q&A: ‘Guest of Cindy Sherman’ director Paul H-O.


Incisive Reportage: Gallery Beat host Paul H-O interviews Cindy Sherman. (Image courtesy of Guest of Cindy Sherman.)

In 1993, Paul H-O (short for Hasegawa-Overacker), along with a few comrades in arms, launched an arts-focused public access program in New York City called Gallery Beat. For 160 half-hour episodes, H-O and his esteemed colleagues — Walter Robinson, now of ArtNet, Spencer Tunick, of nekkid people fame, and Cathy Lebowitz, of Art in America — crash landed at gallery openings all over Manhattan, armed with nothing but a TV camera, a microphone and probing questions such as, What is it?  “Admittedly, half of those episodes are shit and should have never been made,” says H-O. “But there’s some great moments with people in galleries.” Including one with a lot of vagina.

H-O is working on putting the old shows online (a couple currently reside on YouTube), as well as resuscitating Gallery Beat for an internet audience. “There’s a recession going on, which means it’s time for me to come back,” he quips. His priority these days, however, is the theatrical release of his film, Guest of Cindy Sherman, which he co-directed with Tom Donohue, and which will premiere next week at Cinema Village in NYC and the Film Center in Santa Fe. The highly intriguing doc, which chronicles the rise and fall of Gallery Beat alongside the rise and fall of H-O’s romantic relationship with Sherman (expect to see rare footage of her at work), has been making its way through the festival circuit since last spring and is now set for a broad public airing. The footage of H-O & Co. at an early Vanessa Beecroft performance at Deitch is worth the price of admission alone.

To shill the flick, H-O proved willing to submit himself to our pat interrogation methods, revealing who he’d like to see in an artist girl-fight and why he thinks a tube sock and a tin can represent mankind.

C-M: What’s the biggest stereotype about art?
H-O: That tremendous macho attitude that someone like Picasso embodied. Martin Kippenberger established a certain style for himself that way, too. Then there’s Schnabel. People don’t think I like Julian Schnabel, but, in fact, I adore him. He’s given me great material. He is that larger-than-life figure. He adopts the attitude of being Picasso, and since he’s such a visible figure, Hollywood people see him and say, “Here’s an artist!”

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The C-Mon Questionnaire: The Daily Show’s Larry Wilmore


Larry Wilmore, Senior Black Correspondent, and author of I’d Rather We Got Casinos.

Okay, so this has nothing to do with art. But I dig the Daily Show. And last week, at a very crowded, very noisy downtown bar I assaulted Larry Wilmore, the program’s Senior Black Correspondent, and managed to rope him into helping us kick off a new, irregular feature for the blog: the C-Mon Questionnaire.

It didn’t hurt my case that Wilmore is promoting a new book, I’d Rather We Got Casinos and Other Black Thoughts. The comedian has done time as an ink-stained wretch before, serving as a writer on programs such as In Living Color and Bernie Mac – and he is now in the process of developing a show for HBO. He was kind enough to answer our incisive questions about who he’d like to see duke it out in a celebrity death match and what kinda chocolate he’d like to be. 

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When you were a kid, what did you like to draw?
Rocket ships. I was a huge space fan. I wanted to be an astronaut when I was a kid. It didn’t happen because I have bad eyesight. Plus, at the time, NASA wasn’t very brother-friendly.

What’s the desktop wallpaper on your computer?
I have an image of a lone helicopter in the sky. It was during the writer’s strike — on Hollywood Boulevard, last year. I just shot an image of the sky and there was one lone helicopter there.

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Q&A: Bert Rodriguez talks about rubbing art patron feet at Frieze.


You missed a spot: Artsy foot rubs by Rodriguez at last month’s Frieze Fair in London. (Images courtesy of Bert Rodriguez.)

For five days during the Frieze Art Fair last month, Miami artist Bert Rodriguez rubbed feet. His performance piece – Where You End and I Begin, for Miami’s Fredric Snitzer Gallery — consisted of giving art patrons 10-12 minute foot massages over the course of a week. The piece was a spectacle, attracting a full roster of clients (including Guardian critic Adrian Searle), as well as hundreds of onlookers. When he undertook the project, Rodriguez didn’t know the first thing about massaging, much less feet. But he quickly learned, consuming loads of lavender-scented massage oil in the process. Earlier this week, he made himself available via telephone to answer a few probing questions about the experience, including what it was like to rub his gallerist’s toes and which culture has the grossest feet.

C-M: How were the feet?
BR: Some were incredibly fucking disgusting. There were times where I honestly felt like I was going to vomit.

How bad was it?
Some of the feet I rubbed were swollen and bruised and there was black shit under toe nails. I was like, “Can’t you take a sponge or a toothbrush and scrub underneath that nail? I don’t think those colors exist in nature.” There was one man, his skin was falling off in my hands. His feet were fossilized. And then there were the odors. In some of the photographs, you can see that I’m turned away from the person.

Who had the best feet?
Mostly Asian women. They were perfectly smooth and well-kept. They were the most hygienic when it came to their feet. The Italian women also had very nice feet.

And the worst?
I don’t want to be an asshole, but the British really don’t take care of themselves. That’s always been a stereotype. Just like the teeth.

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